‘I have learned from my mistakes’ says new Northampton Borough Council leader, who was convicted of assault 12 years ago

Jonathan Nunn has talked about dealing with his anger, after an assault threatened to end his political career 12 years ago. He is now set to take over as leader of Northampton Borough Council.
Jonathan Nunn has talked about dealing with his anger, after an assault threatened to end his political career 12 years ago. He is now set to take over as leader of Northampton Borough Council.

Twelve years ago - his political career looked to be in tatters. But following the unexpected departure of Mary Markham as leader of Northampton Borough Council this week – Jonathan Nunn is almost certainly set to step into the top job.

In 2004, Councillor Nunn vowed he would return to politics shortly after he was handed a community order for assaulting his then wife.

He faced a disciplinary hearing from the Conservative party, who narrowly chose not to revoke his party membership. It looked unlikely the then 38-year-old would return to the top. But this week he did.

After being announced as the new deputy leader of Northampton Borough Council last year, the management consultant and father of three’s bid to take over the full leadership this week went un-contested.

Speaking to the Chronicle & Echo Councillor Nunn said he was a reformed character however, having sought professional help for anger management and read widely around the issue.

“It cut right to the centre of my heart at the time,” he said.

“That reaction was wrong, and you need to be aware of that as a person.

“Now it is about me understanding that chain of events to prevent a similar reaction,” he added.

Speaking about his new role, he told the Chronicle & Echo he was proud to be taking on the job.

“I was born in St Edmund’s Hospital, I grew up in and around Northampton, my father had businesses here,” he said.

“Every one of my successes, every one of my failures has been in Northampton.

“I feel a tremendous sense of wanting to make it the best place possible.”

Councillor Markham, who launched the various inquiries into the missing millions connected to Sixfields stadium , stood down because of a row over the Barn Owl pub in Rectory Farm.

The venue has been earmarked for conversion into a Co-op store, but it was recently discovered the pub was protected by a covenant preventing its use from being changed.

While she wanted to strike a deal with the Co-op allowing them to pay £30,000 to lift the covenant – her cabinet disagreed, even though enforcing it may result in a legal bill of £200,000.

She felt it left her position untenable.

Councillor Nunn was one of those who disagreed with his former leader, because he felt the deal on the table was not “attractive enough to residents”.

However, he has dismissed any suggestion there was a concerted bid to oust Councillor Markham.

He says he made pleas to his outgoing boss to stay on in the job up until Sunday night.

“People were happy that Mary was there,” he said.

“There was no one that didn’t want her to stay in the job. I’ve never known anyone so strongly committed to her principles. Her standing down is a real example of that.”

Councillor Nunn, who will remain as interim leader until his formal declaration at the next full council meeting, says he has already been on the phone to the auditors investigating the missing £10.25 million loan to Northampton Town for a progress report.

His career Jonathan Nunn’s career in local politics stretches back more than 20 years as a long serving member of Wootton and Hunsbury parish Council.

But after his 2004 conviction he narrowly avoided losing his Conservative party membership.

As fate would have it the then branch chairman of the Northamptonshire Tory group was Phil Larratt - the man who will now stand beside him as deputy and a man who also carries with him a certain amount of political baggage, having been in charge of the council when it was considered one of the worst in the UK by Government inspectors.

Councillor Nunn, like his predecessor, will hold a job alongside his council role in a continued move away from the full-time style of previous leader David Mackintosh.

But he said: “The real art is uniting a team to make sure you are all going in the right direction. This is only going to work if you all pull together.”

Along with pursuing the Sixfields inquiry, Councillor Nunn wants his tenure to focus on promoting Northampton’s town centre.

“We talk ourselves down here in Northampton, but some of that criticism is justified.

“We have history, we have heritage, we have a marina, we have lots of boutique shops. I want to make the most of that.”